Buying a home is one of the most expensive purchases you’re bound to make in your life. That’s why it’s so important to get the right mortgage before you sign on the dotted line.
A few differences in mortgage rates or other terms can equate to tens of thousands of dollars either spent or saved. But with so many options available on the market, it’s hard to know where to start.
There are traditional lenders and online mortgage lenders, local ones and large multinational ones. Plus, many lenders specialize in different types of loans.
To get started, browse some of the best lenders and find a few that match your needs. To help you start honing in on your options, we’ve pulled together a list of the top mortgage lenders.
Best Mortgage Lenders & Online Loan Marketplaces of 2020
You have several great options available, from online lenders to brick and mortar branches, from excellent credit to bad credit lenders. Check out the full list of lenders to find the best choice for your next home loan.
LendingTree is the best if you want to compare multiple offers as they partner with the largest network of lenders who compete for your business.
In fact, you can get up to five different loan offers within minutes of submitting your application. If you’ve already found the place you want to call home, start here.
Another great feature is that you can submit a request online for conventional, FHA, or VA loans. LendingTree’s website also provides a ton of in-depth resources for first-time buyers, no matter where you are in the process.
They provide tips for qualifying for a mortgage, mistakes to avoid when purchasing a house, and a bank of frequently asked questions. For home loan guidance and receiving multiple offers at once, LendingTree is the place to go.
Read our full review of LendingTree
Offering home loans in all 50 states, loanDepot works with a wide range of borrowers. The minimum credit score for most loans is a 620. However, some government-insured programs may allow your credit score to be as low as a 580.
You also have access to a variety of mortgage options. They provide both fixed and adjustable-rate mortgages, as well as jumbo mortgages, FHA loans, VA loans, and home equity loans.
If you want to talk over these choices, you’ll appreciate the lender’s no steering policy. That means your loan officer doesn’t receive any kind of incentive to point you in any one specific direction, so you can trust the advice you get.
Do keep an eye on your origination fees. Depending on your application, those could cost you anywhere between 1% and 5% of your home’s purchase price.
While the first step of applying for a mortgage is to talk to a loan officer, the application process itself occurs online. That means you can do the bulk of the work at your own convenience.
Read our full review of loanDepot
Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans
Rocket Mortgage is a great pick if you prefer applying for a mortgage online and great customer service when needed.
Rocket Mortgage provides FHA loans, USDA loans, and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae loan products that come with down payments as low as 3%.
A branch of Quicken Loans, Rocket Mortgage’s online application process is extremely streamlined with an approval time of just a few minutes. You can also avoid the hassle of paperwork by using a secured platform to share your financial information.
Once you have your proposed interest rate, you can test out different house prices and down payment amounts to create a customized monthly payment. Once you get a contract on your new home, closing is easy and takes place at a location of your choice.
Read our full review of Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans
New American Funding
With New American Funding, you can choose conventional, FHA, or VA loans. You can also explore options for a mortgage that includes a home renovation loan.
Less common available loans include jumbo loans, reverse mortgages, and interest-only mortgages. They also have first-time homebuyer loan programs available.
Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for, go step-by-step through their questionnaire to get more details on potential loan terms you could qualify for.
Read our full review of New American Funding
Alliant Credit Union
Alliant offers both fixed and adjustable rate mortgages and you can qualify with a down payment as low as 3% of the price of the home. On a $200,000 house, that equates to just $6,000 needed in cash for your down payment.
You can qualify anywhere in the country and enjoy a low origination fee of just $995. If having cash-on-hand is an issue for you when purchasing a home, check out Alliant to see how they stack up to other mortgage lenders.
Read our full review of Alliant Credit Union
Guaranteed Rate originated about $24 billion in mortgages for 2018, which is no surprise. The easy-to-use website allows you to get an idea of your qualifying interest rates by inputting just a few details about your estimated credit and the type of home you’d like to buy.
You can then browse several loan options to see your interest rates and APR options. It’s extremely easy to compare mortgage options to get an idea of which kind of mortgage is best for you. You can also browse their Knowledge Center for tons of in-depth resources on the home buying process.
Read our full review of Guaranteed Rate
First Internet Bank
Solely based online, First Internet Bank allows you to complete the entire mortgage application from your own home.
However, you can still call to talk to them on the phone whenever you’d like. They also offer a wide range of loans, including conventional, jumbo, FHA, VA, and USDA loans.
You can get a personalized mortgage rate in less than a minute. You can even sign up for email alerts to track mortgage rates as you shop for houses.
Getting pre-qualified takes just moments, and you can then submit the appropriate documentation to get pre-approved. This extra step gives you a leg up on the competition once you’re ready to make an offer on a home.
Read our full review of First Internet Bank
Carrington Mortgage Services
If you have a question about a loan, you can chat with a Carrington representative from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. PST. They’ve even been featured on Lifetime’s Designing Spaces.
So it should go without saying that Carrington is available and they want your business. Peruse their website and you’ll see how user-friendly it is within moments.
They have a list of mortgage tools that will help you understand what you can afford. They also have a step-by-step guide outlining the loan application process, a list of common mortgage terms that banks use, an explanation of loan types, and a mortgage application checklist.
With an intuitive, user-friendly interface, and great rates to boot, Carrington is a top-notch mortgage company.
SunTrust has a large online presence for mortgages in addition to its physical branches throughout the country.
You can create an online account to apply for a mortgage loan or enter your zip code to find a location near you. They offer a suite of mortgages on top of the typical government-backed loans, including high-cost home financing.
Alternatively, if you meet certain income eligibility requirements, you may qualify for a HomeReady/Home Possible loan, which can help make homeownership more affordable.
SunTrust also offers a unique program for doctors to help licensed medical interns, residents, and fellows to qualify for a mortgage.
Read our full review of SunTrust
Prequalify online within minutes, and from there you can start making smart decisions about your future home. US Bank offers conventional, fixed-rate loans, VA loans, ARMs, and FHA loans.
Want to design and build your dream home? They even have new construction loans and investment property loans.
They also have a “loan officer near you” app that lets you speak with someone who’s knowledgeable about your area and what it is specifically you’re looking to purchase.
You can also directly dial-up their national number and someone will speak to you right then and there. They even have an FAQ section that answers questions you didn’t even know you had.
Read our full review of US Bank
Other Mortgage Lenders to Consider
Didn’t find one on the list that you liked? Read our reviews of some other good mortgage lenders:
How to Pick a Mortgage Lender
One of the best things you can do as part of the mortgage selection process is to compare mortgage rates from multiple lenders. While there are certain lending standards that mortgage lenders must adhere to, each one has flexibility in how they implement them.
You might be surprised at how much variation you see in your different offers. Plus, loans can be structured in different ways to accommodate your financial situation or personal preferences.
If you don’t have a lot of spare cash on hand, you may be able to pay a higher interest rate to avoid larger closing costs. If you want to lower your monthly payments, your lender may let you pay for points to qualify for a lower rate.
It’s also helpful to understand where mortgage rates are right now and where they’re headed. A good real estate agent may be able to help you with this as they usually know the market quite well.
Know your credit score and the type of rate you should qualify for so you can negotiate the best deal possible. Some credit card issuers give you your FICO score for free.
Here are some questions you may want to ask when choosing a mortgage lender:
- How is their customer service?
- What can they tell you about their closing costs and other associated fees?
- How much do you need for a down payment?
- How quickly can you close once you find a home?
These are all questions you should pose to at least two or three separate mortgage lenders.
Compare answers and determine which lender can offer you the best financial deal and meet any other expectations you have surrounding the loan process.
What should you look for in a mortgage lender?
Finding the best mortgage lender for your needs can take a while, so give yourself time. If you’re interested in a particular type of loan, such as a VA loan or an FHA loan, make sure the lender actually offers it.
Pick at least two or three lenders with good customer satisfaction ratings to compare pre-qualification offers. Take a look at the interest rates they offer you, whether the rate is fixed or adjustable, and what your monthly payments will be.
Taxes and Insurance
Make sure they include an estimate for taxes and insurance, not just your principal and interest because that can make your payment increase by at least a couple hundred dollars.
If you live in a more expensive area like a major city, expect to pay even more for property taxes. You can always refinance to get a lower rate down the road, but it’s expensive because of closing costs.
Next, compare the closing fees of each mortgage lender. Some of the expenses won’t change from lender to lender. A title search, for example, will cost about the same amount regardless of what lender you go through. Origination fees, on the other hand, can vary greatly.
Expect to pay 3% to 5% of the loan amount for total closing expenses. Which end of the spectrum you end up on can make a huge difference in how much cash you’ll need.
A good lender will help you explore your options based on how much cash you have and how long you plan to be in the home.
If you have extra money and plan on making your new place your “forever home,” it may be worth paying extra points at closing in exchange for a lower interest rate. Ask each lender for different scenarios to see which best fits your individual needs.
How can you get pre-qualified for a mortgage?
There are two ways to start the mortgage process: a pre-qualification and a pre-approval.
Getting pre-qualified is an informational step to get an idea of what rates to expect and how much you can borrow based on your income and debt levels. You don’t have to supply any documentation at this time.
The quotes you receive are not set in stone and are subject to change with your official application. But it’s good to find out what type of loans you should consider, how much cash you’ll likely need, and what price range of home you should look at.
You’ll need more to actually make an offer on a home because most sellers don’t view a pre-qualification as official enough to indicate likely financing.
What is a pre-approval letter?
A pre-approval letter takes the pre-qualification process one step further. You essentially submit your entire application and all of the accompanying documentation.
This includes things like your tax returns from the last two years, bank statements, explanations of any negative remarks on your credit history, and employment verification.
The lender also performs a hard credit pull to determine your interest rate. It takes a bit of time, but once you’ve been pre-approved, the lender provides a letter stating how much of a loan you qualify for and how much down payment you can provide.
When you submit an offer on a house, this addition makes it much stronger because the seller knows that you’re likely to get approved for the mortgage. Once your offer is accepted, you can lock in an interest rate with your lender for a certain number of days.